There are 10 tricks that fast food restaurants use to make  you overeat or give too much food to your kids.

The result is unwanted weight gain and obesity for many.

Big Colorful Ads in Public

Ever notice that the giant building for a business center has a tiny little sign out front that you can barely find, but Joe’s BBQ Stand has a sign bigger than an 18-wheeler with blaring red letters surrounded by bright orange “flames”?

And it’s not just the small Ma and Pa establishment that relies upon visual attraction. The big guns in the fast food industry pull this tricky stunt too.

There’s actually a link between obesity and fast food advertising, says a 2013 UCLA study.

Dr. Lenard Lesser of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Research Institute says in the report that “marketing gets people to eat more.”

Big huge billboards off to the side of busy highways begin grabbing motorists’ attention from far away.

Restaurant Colors

“Notice the strong red/yellow color schemes of most fast food restaurants,” says Julie Cunningham, MPH, RD, LDN, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator. This goes for the interior as well.

She explains, “It’s well-known that we are influenced by the colors red and yellow to eat more and to eat faster. Conversely, ‘cool’ colors like blue and green cause most people to eat less.”

Great Deals on Meals, not Single Items

Value Meals typically give you an extra item for less cost, encouraging you to overeat,” says Cunningham.

Some “meals” are actually cheaper than the individual sandwich in that meal.

Not wanting to feel like they’re over-spending, people will order the “meal” and end up overeating.


By definition, “fast food” is convenient. But the speedy time it takes to hand over your order is just the beginning.

Due to the large volume of fast food establishments in locations that are heavily frequented by people, many families end up eating dinner or lunch in the car – between rushing around to carry out the day’s activities and being “too exhausted” to make a healthy meal at home.

Note how thick and sturdy the disposable food trays are for some fast food giants.

You can trust even the clumsiest kid in the backseat with these.

Indoor Playgrounds

“The playground isn’t there so that your kids can get exercise,” says Cunningham. “It’s there so that your kids will beg for that particular restaurant.

“You order food while you’re there, and your kids get used to the food. This creates brand loyalty among your children for that particular restaurant.

“The next thing you know, the fast food chain has new customers for life, all because they had the best playground in town.”

TV Ads Targeting Kids

According to Statista, the Statistics Portal, here’s how many TV commercials American kids six to 11 see every year for various fast food giants:

• McDonald’s: 253
• Subway: 81
• Domino’s and Burger King each: 71
• Pizza Hut: 68
• Wendy’s: 48
• KFC: 29

Special Meals for Children

“The kids’ meals and the toys inside them are there to create brand loyalty among children, so that parents can unwittingly help fast food restaurants create customers for life,” says Cunningham.

Sneaking in Dessert

“When kids’ meals include dessert, or when you can trade the toy/book for dessert, this encourages kids to consume sweets they might not normally eat, because the sweets are included with the meal,” says Cunningham.

TV Commercials Directed at Adults

You may recall the McDonald’s slogan of decades ago that was sung in a jingle, “You deserve a break today, so get up and get away, to McDonald’s.”

Then there’s “i’m lovin’ it” and all the slogans in between, including for other fast food behemoths.

Remember the one for Arby’s some years back, a campaign featuring a young man newly living on his own, whose mother worried that he wasn’t eating properly?

“Don’t worry Mom, I eat at Arby’s!”

This had appeal to young men striking out on their own for the first time, plus their mothers who probably suggested that their sons eat more at Arby’s.

No Fat Actors in Fast Food Commercials

Lean, attractive people are hired for these commercials for a reason.

Occasionally a man might be husky, but when’s the last time you saw an overweight woman in TV commercials for fast food?

julie cunninghamJulie Cunningham specializes in helping men and women with diabetes and prediabetes learn how to eat to manage their blood sugars–so they can get back to the things they enjoy. 
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  
Top image: ©Lorra Garrick